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Beautiful You *
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  • Beautiful You, the seventh studio LP by Australian expats the Waifs, finds the group's core trio reunited after a four-year hiatus. Two decades into their career, sisters Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and co-bandleader Josh Cunningham all found themselves living in the U.S., yet miles apart geographically and uncertain whether or not they had any real desire to carry on. Their last effort, 2011's Temptation, was a slightly disjointed affair, with Cunningham extolling his newfound Christianity and Simpson confronting her battles with alcohol addiction, post-rehab. They made it work well enough, but there was still a sense that the three Waifs were no longer on the same page. On Beautiful You, they remain three separate individuals, tied together by friendship, familial ties, and a love for creating music. While the songs still reflect each singer's personal narratives, the overall sound feels more unified this time around and that's partly due to the efforts of Nick DiDia, an American producer now, ironically, based in Australia. Beautiful You is generally unfussy and organic-sounding with enough rock muscle to keep it moving along at a decent clip. Opener "Black Dirt Track" is a gently urgent, slow-building rocker from Vikki, who looks wistfully back on the rural Australia of her childhood. Addiction still looms in Donna's consciousness on the title cut, but this time she's on the other side, observing someone else's struggle. Cunningham, having released a solo album prior to the Waifs' return, tones down his faith and delivers a trio of warm-hearted, often bluesy songs, the nicest of which is the laid-back, country-tinged "Dark Highway." Other highlights include Donna's gritty "Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt" and Vikki's delicate "Come Away," which boasts one of the sweetest melodies on the album. At their core, the Waifs remain a fairly standard Americana-roots act, but the three members' individual personalities offer plenty of appeal, and with Beautiful You they've fallen into a nice rhythm. ~ Timothy Monger
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